William Keebler, a Utah militia group leader with connections to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, was picked up by FBI agents Thursday for trying to blow up the U.S. Bureau of Land Management facility in Arizona, CBS News is reporting.
Federal authorities say the 57-year-old man was planning an act of extreme retaliation against the U.S. government, who he felt was intimidating people and sanctioning ranchers from grazing their cattle without any restrictions.
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According to CBS News, Keebler, described as a “doomsday prepper” by neighbors, is a leader of a militia group known as the Patriots Force based in Stockton, Utah, 45 miles west of Salt Lake City. Keebler traveled to the facility with militia members and undercover FBI agents.
A dormant explosive was placed against the door and the “doomsday prepper” was handed the remote detonation device, which, according to federal authorities, he depressed several times hoping it would explode.
Keebler was arrested early Wednesday and faces a solitary count of attempting to damage federal property with an explosive. If he is found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison. At a Thursday afternoon court appearance, he wore camouflage clothing and had his hands cuffed in front of him as he was acquainted with the charges brought before him.
A friend, Pete Olson, who was in the courtroom and claimed to have attended Keebler’s militia meetings, said there was never any talk of hatred or committing violence. “This militia group is kind of like grown up Boy Scouts.” He admitted that his friend had a survivalist instinct about him and carried a gun to his farm, but that he had never seen him near an explosive much less try to detonate one. He continued, “that’s not the Bill I like and I know, but I know that people get pushed beyond their limits sometimes.”
The FBI revealed that Keebler was one of those at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch in 2014 during a standoff with federal authorities who were herding together Bundy’s cattle because of owed grazing fees. Keebler had posted on Facebook that he was at Bundy Ranch for 13 days, before Cliven Bundy was arrested in Portland, Oregon, in relation to the Nevada standoff.
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Federal autohrities also pointed out that he was a known associate of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, an Arizona rancher who doubled as spokesman for Ammon Bundy, Bundy’s son, as well as other ranchers present during another armed standoff last year in Oregon.
Finicum was killed January 26 by authorities at a traffic stop that eventually led to Bundy’s arrest. The FBI says that before his death, Finicum had followed Keebler-drawn plans with other militia members over plans to retaliate against the U.S. government for what was perceived to be harassment against innocent people and imposing overarching restrictions on ranchers grazing cattle.
Sources say the Patriots Force scouted a Bureau of Land Management facility in Salt Lake City, but abandoned the idea because it was too close to a shopping mall and not isolated. This was the reason why they settled for the BLM cabin in Mount Trumbull.
A Bureau of Land Management spokesman and U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch declined to comment.
Agents say Keebler was recruiting, organizing, and prepping for the day he would coordinate with other militia groups and take part in a grand anti-government action. In May, he spoke about “going on the offensive” and according to sources was gathering material on potential targets as far back as February.
[Image via Shutterstock/Fer Gregory]